(2007-7-1) MSP has quietly notified dealers around the state that new restrictions on purchase of regulated firearms (handguns and select long guns) will take effect on August 1. Starting that date, any application to purchase such firearms will be administratively denied if it does not contain a release authorizing police to access medical records which may be on file at any state agency – or at any agency anywhere – in order to decide if the applicant is eligible to possess a gun. MSP will now assess your mental health when it decides whether to approve your purchase.
Federal and state laws already define a bright-line standard for what constitutes a mental health gun disability, and legal records documenting someone's inability to possess a gun are already available to police (soon to be federally available under NRA-backed legislation now in Congress.) Maryland already did careful upgrading of its system for reporting gun disabilities, after a high-profile failure (over protective orders) several years ago. Unlike Virginia, we didn't need a tragedy (like Virginia Tech) to expose ‘loop holes' in record keeping.
Consequently, the present step represents a vast police overreach clearly intended to increase barriers to lawful gun ownership. Information which MSP may request from an applicant is specific and defined in law. The new policy goes far beyond what the law defines, and it lacks any legal authority. (They didn't even bother to cover their power grab with the veneer of credibility by proposing a new regulation.) MSP demands that applicants give up a Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, and they violate federal HIPAA rules on use of medical information.
Who needs a General Assembly when police can make up laws whenever they want?
Depending on how extensive a bureaucratic game MSP wants to play, the ‘one week' waiting period could become a thing of the past. Few medical records are consolidated in one place for electronic access; an investigator asked to exercise discretion on some applicant's mental health could take months researching paperwork. Moreover, MSP's track record in exercising discretion is poor. They already take it upon themselves to judge “need” for carry permits. Now they may take it upon themselves to judge mental health, going far beyond the bright line standard in law.
Apologists already argue this authorizes a check of only mental health records, but the truth is, Maryland makes no distinction in law. Any medical record police deem useful to making a determination will be opened, and with your signature you agree that MSP can use the data for whatever prosecution might follow if they choose. What nervous conditions will MSP judge inappropriate for approval? Will patients showing early signs of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's be denied? MSP will know when they see it, just like they create laws to enforce when they want them.